My Breastfeeding Journey
When we found out that we were pregnant it was at a very tricky time. We had been trying for 2 ½ years and it was only when I left a rather stressful job that it happened for us, however, I was in between roles and that added an interesting element into the mix for sure!
For me I always wanted to try breastfeeding, it didn’t really occur to me not to at least try. I, of course, put way to much pressure on myself in regards to this because there is so much judgement out there for mother’s on what is right, how to be, what to do, what not to do – it was a minefield I really wasn’t prepared for and certainly didn’t expect. I see the phrase “Fed is best” which I quite like.
I managed to find myself a job and then planned all the financials. Factoring in what I needed to do when I needed to return to work how much we needed to save as I only received statutory maternity pay.
I calculated that I needed to return to full-time work when she was 4 months old, and my partner would take shared parental leave for 5 months. I was very pragmatic about it, that was the plan because that is what we HAD to do financially, being the higher earner meant my salary could cover everything whilst he could not. This is by no means a criticism of my partner he is an amazing father and my best friend, we planned all of this together and I actually really loved the fact that he would get such a special time with our little one to build a strong bond – which he did.
I then started researching breast pumping, because if I was breastfeeding then I would need to have a stash ready for her to have when I returned to work. It seemed so simple; boy was I wrong!
I bought a very expensive double breast pump, read a lot of blogs, and asked for advice. We then attended our parenting classes, 6 weeks of NCT classes with a specific one that focussed purely on breastfeeding. We were lucky enough to meet such a great bunch of people that we are still close with and our children are also friends. So, I asked my questions, all the while preparing for everything.
2 weeks before I was due, I started using the breast pumps to get some colostrum out and, in the freezer, to familiarise myself with the feel and sensation, so I could get the ball rolling. I knew I would not start pumping until 2 weeks after she was born so we could have a really good bond and established a good latch etc.
Skip forward, emergency C section, hospital ward, completely out of our depth – no one can even describe what it is like to you as everyone’s experiences are different. Then the nurse pops my little one on my boob – my boobs are out on show for the ward to see, which in itself is a strange revelation, but I didn’t care I wanted to feed my child.
However, she could not latch, all my plans and preparation going out the window, I was devastated. I had put so much pressure on myself to get this done, convinced myself all the advice and positives from breastfeeding your child were now all negatives, that she would not be healthy, etc Hormones eh!
I was crying and sobbing when the nurse came back with a nipple shield, and I remember my sister used one when she was breastfeeding her children. Apparently, we have flat nipples, what the hell are flat nipples??? I did not even know to look out for that one.
But she latched and it was the most amazing and bloody weird sensation, but I loved it. I had changed from crying in hormonal desperation to crying with joy, and it still makes me well up today thinking about it.
The next 2 weeks sure were interesting as she was a gannet, I didn’t really know about all the changes in breastmilk, the feeding changes, the heavy arms, the positioning – at the beginning it was a 2 person job and my partner was such a massive help to me, putting her onto my breast, helping me apply the nipple shield, etc but we worked it out, and soon I could do it on my own.
Then out came the pump, the noisy beast. I couldn’t really get much out and got mega frustrated and yet again putting way too much pressure on myself. I then asked in a group and someone suggested rather than double breast pump start off by pumping one breast while feeding on the other, for the happy hormones to kick in. And hey presto it worked! My right breast always produced more than my left, so I fed her from the right and pumped from the left. I did this for a few weeks and my supply really increased, which is good because some days I felt like she was never off me, always feeding.
Before long, my supply had really increased and in 10-minute slots of pumping, I never did more than that as I had read somewhere not to, I was getting 8 ounces out each time. All the while feeding her from the other breast – this was at home when we went out I didn’t take the pump, breastfeeding in public is one thing but breastfeeding and breast pumping at the same time – that’s a whole other ball game!
I could see the days counting down to when I had to go back to work, she was born in September and I was due back in January. By November there was quite the stash that we had to buy a new freezer just to fit it in. All bags were clearly labelled, and we had our FIFO process down! It was then that I got quite emotional as I knew we would need to try her with a bottle soon so she could get used to it, and that’s when I started thinking about this amazing unique time with her and how much I loved it and cherished it and didn’t want it to end, but financial pressures meant it had to before I was ready which still saddens me to this day.
I looked online for some sort of breastmilk keepsake for me to remember my special journey with her, found a company and was about to place my order when I said to my partner, actually I am going to save some money and try and do this myself for myself. There was a lot of trial and error but eventually, I managed to find a perfect technique of preserving my breastmilk so I could incorporate it into some jewellery. Then my first proper piece, the purple heart.
I stopped breastfeeding Elara when she started to show that she preferred breastmilk from a bottle over my breast, but I carried on pumping whilst she was drinking. Apparently, my defective nipples weren’t good enough anymore! The mass increase in supply was however proving a little difficult to handle. I recall going to a baby sensory class and I forgot to pump, my breasts were huge solid painful masses and I was about to burst. I had to dash home just to pump so I could go for lunch with my mum friends, 18 ounces came out and the sweet relief – they don’t tell you how painful it can actually be having great big solid mammaries!
I then knew I needed to start reducing my abundant supply, but had no idea how…. More internet searching and the plan to start reducing. I still wanted to produce some just not quite this much! My breastfeeding journey came to an end when she was 4 months however my relationship with my breast pump continued for a further 2 months, we were very close!
The stash was used to feed Elara but I also used it to make her first foods and purees so they all had a familiar flavour. Her first food was pea puree with breastmilk and she loved it! That was my next mission to make all her food with breastmilk (I know sounds nuts doesn’t it).
Skip forward to 2 years later and I still have breastmilk in the freezer, and I can’t bring myself to part with it – I will probably make myself more jewellery someday and a keepsake for Elara with it for when she is older. I hear so many amazing stories from women who breastfeed for years, child after child, or one child for many years and am so amazed. I try not to judge myself too much, but yes I would have liked our journey to be longer, but we had what we had and it was amazing. I was so lucky as some of my friends couldn’t breastfeed for various reasons and felt a huge amount of shame about it but let’s leave it with, love is best, fed is best.